When I was in the early part of my pregnancy, I felt quite a bit of anxiety about what the birthing experience would be like in Turkey, especially hearing so much about how common caesareans are here. It took time and research, and help from knowledgeable people along the way, but I’m so happy with the way things turned out. I was able to have the natural, non-medicated birth experience I hoped for, so I thought I’d share a bit about how we got to that point, for anyone else looking for a similar experience in Istanbul.
A great starting point was being put in touch with the birthing class instructors and doulas from DOUM. This organization in Emirgan provides birth preparation classes, pre-natal and baby yoga, doula services and lots of other useful stuff. I met one of the owners, Nur, who gave me loads of information about the general birthing situation in Turkey and most importantly, gave me some useful leads as far as doctors and hospitals supportive of natural birth. Through Nur I heard about Dr Gülnihal Bülbül, who she said was probably the best option to consider.
I contacted Dr Gülnihal, and Richie and I went to meet her in May, when I was about 23 weeks pregnant. I got to ask her all the questions I didn’t ask my first doctor, and got answers that made me feel confident she had a view of childbirth that I agreed with. I also found out she’d even done training with Janet Balaskas, the author of Active Birth, one of the best birth books I read during my pregnancy. I felt completely relieved after meeting her and felt like I’d be able to trust her to support my intention to have a natural birth, whereas the doctor I had been going to at the American hospital was nice, but left me feeling like I was just being humoured and uncertain about how things would actually turn out when it came time to have the baby. With my first doctor I felt an underlying fear and anxiety that when the big day came, no matter what had been discussed beforehand, I’d be at the mercy of the doctor’s decisions and I’d end up with medical interventions I didn’t really need. Making the switch to Dr Gülnihal was absolutely key to having the birth experience I wanted and definitely one of the most important decisions I made during my pregnancy.
One of the best things about switching to Dr Gülnihal was the warm and personal care she provides. She takes time to get to know patients and made me feel comfortable calling her at any time with any problems I might have. I felt very well looked after throughout my pregnancy. At the American hospital, things were much more business-like and I felt like just a number more or less. Visits were usually rather quick affairs, just covering the basics. However, especially in the last couple of months of my pregnancy, visits to Dr Gülnihal would end up being about an hour long, with a nice chat after the usual check-up part was finished. Another nice thing was all the extra advice and information she provided, especially related to diet and general health during pregnancy. It seems obvious that a doctor would advise you on things like this, but that wasn’t the case with my first doctor. Her genuine warmth and kindness made it a pleasure to go for my check-ups and built up a level of trust that was so important when it came time for labour and delivery. Having a doctor we felt so comfortable with also meant that we could chose a cheaper hospital to have the baby. She advised us on hospitals to consider, and we felt confident choosing an inexpensive private hospital that she had a good working relationship with. In the end, we were very happy with the hospital and we saved a lot of money too!
The other important person I met with Nur’s help was my doula Amy. She was a perfect match for me and Richie, since one of our main first reasons for wanting a doula was to deal with our language problem (i.e. we don’t speak Turkish!). So, since Amy is American, we obviously didn’t have any communication problems with her, and she’s lived in Turkey for ages so we had no worries about having to deal with our Turkish language problem while we were in the hospital, which was certainly a relief.
But beyond that initial language concern, having Amy with us was so very worth the (in my opinion) modest cost. We met her a few times before the big day, so we could all get to know each other, and she gave us advice on a variety of things- places to shop for baby things, positions we could practice to prepare for labour, etc. She also helped to induce my labour naturally when the time came using aromatherapy, massage, etc., so that I didn’t have to have artificial induction. It was also perfect because Dr Gülnihal and Amy had worked with each other on many previous occasions so I really felt like I’d have a team supporting me.
And a final comment on the importance of a doula- it seems that if Amy hadn’t been with us, I might have ended up having a caesarian, due to the fact that I had a rather difficult and really long second-stage of labour. I was pushing for about 4 hours without much progress and there were concerns that I wouldn’t have the energy needed to continue and deliver the baby normally. However, since the baby was holding up fine and Amy felt confident that I could continue a bit longer, Dr Gülnihal felt that it was okay to let me keep pushing for a while longer. I’m glad she did because not long after that, the baby was finally moving down and an hour later he was born naturally and in his own time, without any drastic measures being taken.
So, even though I had a difficult labour and delivery, I managed to do it all naturally, without medication, taking the time necessary to let nature take its course. Because I had the support of a great doula and a doctor I trusted, I felt that even if medical intervention was necessary at some point, it would be because I really needed it for my own safety or for the baby’s safety. It wouldn’t be simply for the doctor’s convenience. Having this peace of mind made such a massive difference going into the whole experience.
So, if you’re someone looking to have a natural birth in Istanbul, it is certainly possible. I think having the right doctor and a doula are necessary in having a positive natural birth experience and I can’t recommend our doctor and doula strongly enough! Whatever kind of birth experience you’re looking for, I’d still recommend Dr Gülnihal and having a doula for the extra support. It’s so worth it!
If you’ve found this post because you’re researching birthing options in Turkey, I’d love to answer any questions I can or share contact information for our doctor or doula. Just leave a comment and I’ll tell you whatever I can!
Here are the two people I can’t thank enough, and who were so important in helping us bring little Liam into the world in they way we’d hoped for!